The Little ‘G’ on the top of my cell phone screen means that the network I’m using supports GPRS or General Packet Radio Service. GPRS is the entry level standard for cellular data transmission. GPRS falls under the GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) standard for mobile telephony. Commonly thought of as a second and a half generation (2.5G) cellular technology, GPRS allows for data transfers of speeds up to 114Kbps. The word “Lonestar” on the other side of my cell phone screen means I’m getting GPRS in Liberia.
Just last week Lonestar Cell announced their jump into GPRS. After Libercell, Lonestar is the 2nd carrier in Liberia to do this. The internet is about as slow as it is in the rest of the country, but it’s still good enough for email. Mobile phone apps like Google Maps and Microsoft Live Search work well enough but don’t really have any content for the greater Monrovia area.
Lonestar was the first cell phone operator in Liberia using the GSM standard. For a long time, they held a monopoly in the cellular market until Cellcom GSM came along. Today, they are the largest carrier with about 500,000 subscribers. It will be interesting to see what this does to the already competitive GSM market in Liberia.
Lonestar has been advertising this service in the paper, but much to my dismay, with no technical details of how to get it to work. You have to go to a Lonestar store, and there they give you a little flier with a few specific details for Nokia and Motorola phones. The alternative is to wait in a huge long line for someone else to setup your phone for you. I had to do a little playing around to get it to work on my Samsung Blackjack that runs Windows Mobile 5, but after a 4 or 5 tries I got it. Here’s what I did:
Connects to: The Internet
Access Point: internetlcc
Leave all the rest blank
Then settings-> Connections->GPRS->GPRS Authentication
GPRS Authentication: None
After that it worked just fine.
I’ve heard that Cellcom is set to deploy EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution), a 2.75G technology, on their network in the coming months. With a theoretical top speed of 473Kbps this will make Cellcom’s network a lot faster than Lonestar or Libercell. However, that will only work if the connection coming into Liberia is that fast when you split it amongst the whole country. At any rate, I’m excited about it. I’ll keep you posted.